SINGAPORE (July 29): The crash-and-burn IPO of Pets.com at the height of the tech bubble in February 2000 was a seminal moment in global corporate history. The online pet food retailer had chalked up a mere US$619,000 in sales in the year ahead of its IPO, yet commanded US$330 million in market capitalisation at its listing debut. Selling products for a third of what you pay for them clearly does not make a viable business model. Not surprisingly, then, within weeks, Pets.com had gone bust and has been the butt of investors’ jokes ever since.

Two decades on, tech investors could be forgiven for a sense of déjà vu. Ride hailing giants Uber and Lyft listed earlier this year and are both currently still way underwater despite a bull market rally that has created new records. “Both Uber and Lyft have yet to convince investors that they have a path to profitability,” veteran tech fund manager Paul Meeks, who runs the Wireless Fund in Bellingham, a suburb of Seattle, Washington, tells The Edge Singapore.

Now Wall Street is waiting for the most controversial IPO in years — the September listing of WeWork, the shared-office provider backed by Japan’s Softbank Group and its US$100 billion ($136.4 billion) Vision Fund. With 750 locations in 125 cities in 36 countries, including Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong, WeWork, whose valuation has ballooned to over US$47 billion, is by far the world’s largest tenant and one of America’s biggest unicorns, or a privately held tech firm valued at over US$1 billion. Already, it is the biggest tenant of commercial real estate in key financial centres such as New York and London as well as tech centres such as San Francisco.

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